Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

Ask Natalie: Broke up with fiancé but since Covid-19 has hit, you can’t afford to move out. Now what? Brother recently eloped and you aren’t sure what is an appropriate gift to give?

DEAR NATALIE: So this is awkward. I recently broke off my engagement with my live-in boyfriend of five years. Our lease isn’t up for another six months and because of Covid-19, neither of us are really able to “couch hop” right now. I can’t afford to move out, either, because I lost my job and he was supporting us both because of the pandemic. I broke it off because he’s very critical of me. In the heat of the moment, I just blurted out, “I want out!” He doesn’t think I’m serious, but I am. What do I do? How do I get out of this mess? I’m also dealing with the fact that he’s acting like the victim here. Any ideas? —NO WAY OUT

DEAR NO WAY OUT: Emotions are running high as some people find themselves in close quarters, spending too much time together. I don’t think you are alone in recognizing that your relationship isn’t going to go the distance. Now the question remains: Is there anyone you can turn to for support? Do you have any family around you that you are comfortable reaching out to? I know you said that you don’t want to couch hop, but is there any way that you could at least spend part of the week with someone that you trust just to ease the tension? I don’t know how big your space is that you are sharing, but can you put a cot or a mattress in another room to sleep in to give yourself some physical distance? This is not a long-term strategy, but just something to consider until you can find a more permanent solution. Because of the ripple effect that Covid-19 has had, it has exposed a lot of inequities in our communities, including housing insecurity as well as employment insecurity. The fact that you don’t have any options speaks to the failings of these systems and how quickly people can fall into a bad place due to a lack of resources. Try not to be too hard on yourself. Until you are able to find a new space, I would talk to him as calmly as possible. “I know this isn’t an ideal situation now that we have broken up. I know we are both hurting. But until one of us can afford to leave, we are stuck here together. How do you think we can work together to make the best of this?” Maybe that means creating a list of boundaries that you can agree on. Maybe it means spending time apart as much as you can. Maybe it means really talking through the issues that you have. Perhaps this relationship is salvageable if you have time to share what is in your hearts. If you find that this just isn’t going to work and you feel threatened in any way, reach out to a social worker in your area that can help you find housing resources if any are available. 

DEAR NATALIE: Because of Covid-19, my youngest brother and his fiancé decided to elope last weekend. They are going to have a very small reception soon and then a larger reception when all of this is “over.” I wasn’t sure if it was appropriate to give a gift now or wait until the larger gathering, which would most likely be next year. What do you think? —SAY YES TO THE GIFTS

DEAR SAY YES TO THE GIFTS: I definitely think it is appropriate to bring a gift to the smaller party. Considering you don’t even know when the larger event will be, you don’t want to show up empty-handed to the get-together that you’ve been invited to...especially as his brother. You can always bring them a really great bottle of champagne and a card with money/check/gift card to a place you know they can utilize during a pandemic, like a home improvement store. This is the year of practicality and restraint when it comes to gifts. The bottle of bubbles says, “Let’s party!” but the responsible gift says, “It’s 2020, let’s build a safe room!” Overall, you can’t go wrong. Then, when and if they end up having a big reception, you can get them something more personalized, like a photo album of their experiences together. Get creative with that idea and make it a gift from the heart.

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